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5/8/04 - AFGHANISTAN AND TERRORISM - 2004-05-11

Elections in Afghanistan are scheduled to take place in September. In December 2003, Afghans held a loya jirga, or grand assembly, with delegates from around the country assembling in Kabul to approve a new constitution. A new Afghan army is being trained along with a police force representing the country’s many ethnic groups.

Cofer Black, U.S. State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, says that there is also progress in another area:

“Afghanistan is no longer a breeding ground for terrorism as a result of Operation Enduring Freedom.”

The U.S.-led coalition that removed the Islamic extremist Taleban regime from power also uprooted the al-Qaida terrorist network. Ambassador Black says that al-Qaida has “significantly degraded as an organization”:

“Seventy percent of their [al-Qaida] leadership have been arrested, detained, or killed, but more than three-thousand-four-hundred of their supporters and associates have also been arrested and detained.”

But problems remain in Afghanistan. Taleban and al-Qaida remnants are targeting the interim government and coalition forces in an effort to destabilize the country. These terrorists try to hamper reconstruction efforts with attacks on private organizations and United Nations facilities.

As the latest U.S. State Department “Patterns of Global Terrorism” report points out, "Al-Qaida regards Afghanistan as an important base of operations and continues its armed opposition.” The terrorists are being countered by Afghan forces working with the coalition. Pakistan, Afghanistan’s neighbor, has made progress in sharing information and coordinating efforts to improve security along the border.

The U.S. will continue to help the people of Afghanistan secure their country, says President George W. Bush. “We've seen in Afghanistan that the road to freedom can be hard. . . . Any nation that sacrifices to build a future of liberty will have the respect, the support, and the friendship of the United States of America."